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Johnson named AP Male Athlete of Year

CONCORD, N.C. (Dec. 21, 2009)—Jimmie Johnson, the first driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup history to win four straight championships, now has become the first race car driver to be named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, scored seven wins, 16 top-five finishes, 24 top-10s and four pole positions during his historic run in 2009. He previously tied the legendary Cale Yarborough after earning three straight championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Yarborough accomplished this feat in 1966, 1967 and 1968.

Editors from AP-member newspapers nationwide comprised the panel, and Johnson received 42 votes. Tennis star Roger Federer (30 votes) and Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt (29) were the next-closest athletes. In the award’s 78-year history, this is the first time a race car driver has received the honor.

“We’d been wondering the last few years, ‘When is this going to hit?’” Johnson told the AP. “It seems like the answer is now. The wave is finally peaking, and we don’t know where it’s going to take us. The fourth-straight title takes it out of our sport and makes it a point of discussion—like, ‘Wow, a race car driver won this thing.’”